Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Soderbergh delivers low-dosage take on connection between drugs, violence

  • Print

Director Steven Soderbergh has claimed Side Effects will be his last theatrical feature film, which makes it a double disappointment.

One: Soderbergh has made some terrific movies (Contagion, The Limey, Out of Sight, Traffic) and his contributions to cinema would be missed.

Two: Side Effects does not exactly qualify as leaving on a triumphant note.

Soderbergh, working from a script by Scott Z. Burns, delivers a genre mash-up, a murder mystery that strives to address the social ills that attend prescription pharmaceuticals. This has the capacity to be a hot-button movie playing on the all-too-pertinent link between violence and prescription meds.

But Soderbergh seems to be gingerly avoiding head-on confrontation. Instead, he bottles a more mundane thriller of the type that might have appealed to Brian De Palma a decade or two earlier.

Here, the featured depressive is Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), a young woman who should be happier about her impending reunion with her hunky husband Martin (Channing Tatum), finishing up a four-year prison term for insider trading.

Instead, she plunges into a depression that becomes serious when she steers her car into a parkade wall.

Her attending psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), is apparently sincere in his desire to help Emily, but he has an unfortunate penchant for being fast on the draw with his prescription pad. (The film duly exposes the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and doctors with a quietly subversive scene in which Banks is offered $50,000 over an expensive lunch to deliver patients willing to participate in drug trials.)

At Emily's request, he prescribes an anti-depressant for her. It turns out that one of the drug Ablixa's side effects is: May cause violent death to anyone in the patient's vicinity.

The heat is now on the good doctor to prove he wasn't lax in his patient care. The screws start to tighten further when he finds himself in conflict with Emily's previous doctor, Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a shrink femme fatale whose previously friendly consultations take a turn for the toxic.

Soderbergh's penchant for bouncing his way through different genres serves him well, since the film effortlessly transforms midway from medical drama to mystery-thriller with deft cunning.

Rooney Mara, fresh from playing the more demonstrably anti-social heroine of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake, has a proven talent for portraying a placid surface masking stormy turmoil.

Yet the film is altogether too subtle in its portrayal of an over-medicated society where people exchange prescription med advice the way housewives used to trade recipes.

Eventually, we're asked to invest in Jonathan Banks and his struggle to regain his normal life. But one is hard-pressed to care somehow.

Caution: This film may leave viewers feeling comfortably numb.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Other voices

Selected excerpts of reviews of Side Effects.

 

"If Side Effects, an immensely pleasurable thriller centring around psychotropic drugs, really is Steven Soderbergh's final big-screen film, as the director claims it will be, then he has peaked in the Valley of the Dolls."

-- Melissa Anderson, Village Voice

 

"In most of his films, Soderbergh comes off as a seeing brain, with one thesis idea per movie and an unwillingness (or inability) to change course when he knows that his thesis isn't working. He's not a one-trick pony, only a one-trick-per-show pony. But in Side Effects, he's mixing up conventions, playing cheerfully in the shallow end of the pool."

- David Edelstein, New York Magazine

 

"The emotional depths of the film's first half get bludgeoned by the simplistically lurid twists and turns, which hinge on some egregiously homophobic stereotypes that Soderbergh's clinical touch fails to complicate."

- Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York

 

"What begins as a bodaciously styled woman's picture transforms into a rather square wrong-man procedural that pushes too hard, and in multiple directions, on the metaphoric idea of the side effect."

- Ed Gonzalez, Slant

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:37 AM CST: adds fact box, adds photo

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Spring fashion trends

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A water lily in full bloom is reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google